Oxford plant scientists welcome Genetic Technology Bill

Plant scientists at the Department of Biology welcome the introduction of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill to facilitate new approaches to increase crop production and food security and the launch of the Science for Sustainable Agriculture communications platform.

Legislation to support the development of innovative tech to grow more resistant, more nutritious, and more productive crops will be introduced in Parliament today.

Precision breeding technologies, like gene editing, have a range of benefits. They will give UK scientists the power to help farmers and producers develop plant varieties and animals with beneficial traits that could also occur through traditional breeding and natural processes, but in a more efficient and precise way.

For example, precision breeding techniques can produce crops with fewer inputs, including pesticides and fertilisers, improving the sustainability, resilience and productivity of the UK food system. This will reduce costs to farmers and reduce impacts on the environment, as well as potentially increasing disease resistance in plants and animals, and boosting climate change resilience; with water scarcity likely to become a major impact of climate change, it is essential that plant breeding technology is able to keep pace with the challenge.

Precision breeding can also create safer food by removing allergens and preventing the formation of harmful compounds in food. Globally, between 20% and 40% of all crops grown are lost to pests and diseases. Precision breeding has the potential to create plant varieties and animals that have improved resistance to diseases; helping to reduce our reliance on pesticides and antibiotics, reduce impacts on the environment and improve the welfare of animals.   

Professor Jane Langdale, who recently authored the UK Plant Science Research Strategy, said:

“The precision breeding bill is an important and necessary step towards achieving sustainable agricultural and land management practices in the UK. It is also a change in regulation that recognizes the importance of regulating a product rather than the process used to make it. I hope that establishment of the SSA will provide further support for evidence-based discussions and decisions on agricultural policy in the future”

Read more about the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) bill, announced today, see the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/genetic-technology-bill-enabling-innovation-to-boost-food-security